Jerky Nation: America’s Love For Dried Meat

I thought jerky has always been popular—or, at least, I've enjoyed for as long as I can remember, going to back to the cans of Jerky Chew I bought with my allowance. But apparently, dried meat is more popular than ever. According to this story from NPR, American's spend nearly $3 billion on jerky-type products annually. That's a lot of dried meat.

From the story:

“It turns out jerky is the perfect food for the moment. Millennials are snacking more than ever, and people want more protein in their diet, according to the National Snack Food Association.

“For thousands of years, human civilizations have cured, dried and salted animal muscle. In other words, jerky was paleo before paleo was cool. And today it has re-surged for the same reasons: It's lightweight, high in nutrition and can travel long distances without spoiling.

“Jerky sales grew 12.5 percent last year, according to IRI. The big daddy of the industry is Jack Links, of Minong, Wis. Spokeswoman Kaila Fiske says the company claims more than half of all U.S. jerky sales. But there are hundreds of mom-and-pop jerky makers across the country, with more starting up all the time.”

What’s fueling this craze? I think a lot of it stems from the fact that we’re a lot more health-conscious today than we were just a decade ago, and jerky is fairly healthy—at least it is compared to many of the other options in the snack-food aisle. In its pure form, jerky is simply meat and salt. Of course, the ingredients list on mass-market jerky is a lot longer with unpronounceable additives. However, as hunters, we can control that, and the cost, by making jerky at home. And while I’ve never made Jerky Chew out of elk or deer, I just might have to try it.